Global perspective Human stories

UN agency seeks ‘strategic approach’ to impact of disasters on world tourism

UN agency seeks ‘strategic approach’ to impact of disasters on world tourism

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has allocated additional resources and realigned its work programme for the years 2008/2009 to help better face the challenges of natural and man-made disasters to a market that last year registered 842 million arrivals.

“The need for a more strategic approach to risk and crisis management has been confirmed by recent events such as the forest fires in Greece, hurricanes in Central America, and the earthquake in Indonesia,” UNWTO said in a news release today.

Although tourism authorities from Greece, Honduras and Indonesia informed UNWTO that recent events have not caused major changes in the schedules of travellers, reflecting the resilience of the travel and tourism industry, “it also underlines the need for a strategic and rapid response of the sector to the adversities,” the Organization added.

UNWTO said it is drawing on “its rich experience and proven capability” in the work done so far for the recovery of tourism after the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the various efforts on bird and human flu pandemics.

Actions included appeals to the world’s media to take care in its coverage of destinations hit by the tsunami so as not to slow the recovery of an important economic sector, avoiding a repeat of the “infodemic” that caused a slump in Asian tourism 2003 when Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) killed 774 people and infected more than 8,000 worldwide, the vast majority of them in China.

UNWTO then called on the press, and particularly the specialized travel press, to issue honest and balanced information on events and situations that could influence the flow of tourists.

Last year the agency unveiled a new Internet portal to provide round-the-clock tracking of emergencies and avoid over-reactions to potential crises, focusing initially on the bird flu scare of a potential pandemic.

“The close collaboration with other UN bodies and agencies such as the UN System Influenza Coordination (UNSIC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), to name a few, should reinforce UNWTO in its future endeavours to tackle all forms of crises to the tourism industry as a whole,” today’s news release said.

In the aftermath of the 2005 tsunami, UNWTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli stressed that the best way to help such devastated tourist havens as Sri Lanka, Maldives, Thailand and Indonesia, was to encourage tourists to return.